Monday, May 7, 2007

God Makes All Things New

Things were getting just a bit cumbersome, so let's take a fresh start. I expect that we'll continue with many threads from the previous posts-and-comments, but, especially for newer members, it's a bit daunting to plow through 100+ comments just to catch up!

Let's pick up from a comment that John made. Paraphrasing, he reminded us that God is the one who makes/is making all things new. This Isaianic prophecy is reaffirmed throughout the NT (new commandment, new covenant, new creation, new community, new commission, just for starters), and is nearly the final comment in our Scripture--"Behold," says the one seated on the throne, "I am making everything new!" (Rev 21:5). This is what we've been wrestling with, the continuities and discontinuities between the "new" and the "old."

Let me suggest the Resurrection as an icon for us, as it provides an interesting "take" on the new and the old. In one sense, the Resurrection strongly reaffirms the "old"--against gnosticism in all its forms, the physical body of Jesus was raised to new life. God has neither abandoned our bodies, nor the creation in which those embodied persons live, move and have their beings. At the same time, the resurrection body is unlike anything we know. It is both continuous with the old, yet also discontinuous. It is not a "natural progression" from the old; we can't look at the old and then find our way automatically into the new... yet once we find ourselves in the new, it nevertheless has a familiar ring or feel to it. We feel "at home," even though we've never been there before!

As Joseph said, these conversations don't require much steering, and God help anyone who attempts to "manage" them! Gentlemen, and all ladies who care to join in, start your engines!

72 comments:

josenmiami said...

great topic Brian! And by the way, you are doing an awesome job as our moderator. I am sure this is a daunting task to try to manage the creative-chaotic exersize in walking on the edge! (Jimmy is sitting next to me while we watch the sun go down and I drink a Corona -- he said he agrees...you ARE an awesome moderator!).

I found the Passion of the Christ difficult to watch. But the one scene that ripped my heart out, was when Mary ran to Jesus as he was bearing the cross, and stumbled and fell. She wanted to comfort her child...he looked up, with no trace of anger, fear or rage...and said, almost with boyish excitment to his mom, "I am making all things new!"

Thank God for the new things he is doing...and thank God for the young men and women who are visiting this site to enter into this discussion.

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks for your generous words, Joseph and Jimmy, and I sure wish I could be there drinking a beer and watching the sunset with you.

I wonder if Howard Snyder didn't get us off on a bit of a wrong foot all those years ago... Snyder wrote a book called "The Problem of Wineskins" about 30 years ago, and it was a very influential book in our little circle. If I recall it correctly, it was about how church structures need to adapt to the new wine of the work of God...

Here's what I'm thinkin'--I wonder if pretty much any skin will do, just so long as it has some flex left in it. I fear that we sometimes run the risk of trying to become wineskin engineers, trying to get all the specs just right, so that when God moves, we'll be ready and waiting, with exactly the right wineskin ready to go. How lucky God is to have folks like us working on this for him!

I'm not meaning to be thoughtless or careless. I agree with all of us that experimentation with "how we do church" is good and necessary and can even be very fruitful, so long as we don't let our hearts settle on our experiments. The Resurrection is my theme here--no one had it figured out, no one anticipated it, the local "resurrection experts" (the Pharisees and the Essenes) were looking the opposite way, and God just went ahead and raised Jesus from the dead. Doesn't that just make you shout for joy?

Note to ALL: it would be terrific if as many of us as can could get to the ACM conference in Columbus in October. I would so love to be able to sit face to face and get after all this in person with you! I'm just so frustrated that Columbus has banned seegars in all public places... anyone know how far out of town we'd have to go before we could enjoy a stogie? Seriously, let's try to meet somewhere after hours... we'll force Joseph to moderate, and give him an official title and position!

Jes' kiddin'.

John the Musician said...

Actually Brian, I'm pretty sure there isn't anywhere in columbus where you can smoke indoors. The only possibility would be a pool hall or something, but I think the law is no smoking in indoor public areas period. One possibility is to rent a smoking room for one night like we did a few years back, and have everyone pitch in.

Also, I agree with you (at least I think this is where you were going in your last post) that it's ok to take a look at the wineskin to make sure all is well with it, but we can only spend so much time looking at it. If we're constantly evaluating the wineskin then that won't leave us any time to enjoy the wine, because we'll simply never put any into it.

Brian Emmet said...

Actually, we can't even rent a "smoking room" any more--there simply aren't any in the hotels! And having a cigar is far from a necessity.

Yes, I was saying that we can get tover-focused on the wineskin ("Right kind of skin? Properly sewn? Treated with appropriate water-proofing?")... Up here, we've been trying to remember Bob Mumford's picture of "spiraling outwards"--there's something about the new life in Christ that keeps us moving outward, just as new wine, as it ferments, continues to expand/push outward. I think where that dynamic is happening, that particular wineskin may be OK.

That said, I do think we need to keep thinking about the way we structure our lives together in Christ either helps or hinders thia outward push.

josenmiami said...

I think any wineskin will do that permits us to effectively engage mission to the world. In my mind, the key issue is not New Testament "purity" but rather missional effectiveness within the wide latitude that the NT gives us.

I came across an interesting statement by Alan Hirsch in "The Forgotten Ways" that I had never considered before.

"In engaging mission in a post-modern culture: Christology determines missiology, and missiology determines ecclesiology" (Hirsch:142).

Hirsch points out that post-modern culture is becoming fragmented or 'tribalized" into numerous sub-cultres rather than one over-arching culture.

This, then, requires enormous diversity and flexibility in ecclesiological forms and structures.

In another part of the book, he mentions that there are now over 60 "pub" churches meeting regularly in Australia, and probably more in the United STates. In the same chapter, he gives a dazzeling overview of new churches that are springing up among bikers, clubs, pubs, coffee houses, as well as some churches that are selling their buildings in and moving into shopping malls.

Brian Emmet said...

Yes, but--

(that may be the inscription on my tombstone!)

Yes, but--one of the things that "saved" civilization in the so-called Dark Ages were the monks in the monasteries, copying parchments. This was not "missional" in our contemporary usage, but this work of copying--copying, for Christ's sweet sake!--became a seedbed for a tremendous recovery, revival and reformation.

And of course, as they copied, they embellished... decorated... ornamented... "illuminated" the manuscripts, thereby creating amazing new works of art and beauty.

josenmiami said...

ok, I can't resist this, Brian ;-)

I won't give you #1... but #2... AMEN! Three Cheers for the monks copying missionally!!

...and...so? help me out with how that relates to our current situation? Perhaps modern monks copying and pasting into their blogs? hehehe.

At least I was brief!

Aside from the wonderful monks, anythoughts on Hirsch's prioritizing of missiology over ecclesiology?

...and by the way (this is getting less and less brief), the Celtic monks were part of one of the greatest, outward-focused mobile Jesus movements of history....they literally "saved civilization."

William said...

that is an interesting thought: missiology determines ecclesiology.

I dont think that we have to try to be relevant to the culture we are in, if we are in right relationship with God and listening to Him, then we need to bring them into reality with Him...to make them relevant in a sense.

i can see cutting the truth into bite size pieces so that the certain group we are attempting to reach can taste it and understand it and therefore relate to it and grab hold of it.

With that in mind, I think missiology can determine ecclesiology if someone is planning on starting a new community fresh...can it not work both ways?

josenmiami said...

...and the other part from Hirsch's book is that Christology helps shape our missiology.

Both ways? I'll have to ponder that. I tend to think that when ecclesiology shapes our missiology, we end up with a situation like today where we are maintaining our church structures rather than reaching people.

Sean said...

I believe it does work both ways - actually, that all three - Christology, missiology, and ecclesiology - interact and affect one another at the same time. But I don't say this because it sounds neat. I think it is a very complex process or phenomenon; too complex perhaps for any of us to understand.

For example, Christology informs missiology, but also the other ways around. One's missional experiences can have an enormous impact on one's Christology. Your Christology can be shaped by your missiological experiences. Then throw in ecclesiology. Have you ever known someone's ecclesiology being affected by their understanding of Christology, and vice versa - which then affects their missiological response? It's almost like chaos theory in math: there are variables, hundreds of them, that affect reality: how people understand Christ, how people operate as a community, how people function in missionary activity. My missiology is affected by my ecclesiological experience, my understanding of Christology, and probably several other factors that I might not even be aware of (because I haven't really thought about it fully). And my understanding of Christology is definitely influenced by my ecclesiological experience and my missiological experience.

Note: when I use these terms, I am talking about them functionally, not abstractly - i.e. how they play out in the real world.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, I take your point that the "copying monks" were part of a larger monastic movement that certainly had a strong missional orientation. My only point was that I want there to be room for copying monks as well as monk who get into boats and simply allow the wind/spirit to take them wherever God wills (from William Cahill's book "How the Irish Saved Civilization" and also Hunter's "The Celtic Way of Evangelism"). We're never quite certain of what the Spirit will use, or in what manner, so I want to go full speed ahead with developing all kinds of missional communities, from those that meet Thursday nights at 11 in the pub and those that are high-church liturgical, etc.

I appreciated your commetns, Sean, about Christology-missiology-ecclesiology. I agree with you (if I understood you) that it's not the straight-line progression that Hirsh seemed to suggest. If we make it a chicken-and-egg problem (which comes first--Christology OR missiology OR ecclesiology?), I think we might miss all three boats instead of just one.

And (here I'm just showing off), it's "high dudgeon," not "high dungeon". When I say I'm in "high dudgeon" about soemthing, it means I'm exercised about it, not that I'm in prison...

...although some may disagree with the degree of, or neccesity of, my incarceration!

josenmiami said...

yes, I know. I was trying to be funny with the "high dungeon" comment, as in "working myself into jail".

I agree with your view about the value of both the copyists, and the cross-culturalists.

Hirsch has an interesting graphic about missional leaders that I wish I could paste into here. he has a continuam (sp? sorry, I amin the library and this computer does have word) of incarnational-missional leaders at one end, and 'guardians of the Apostolic Genius' at the other end (his words not mine).

I would probably use "Pauline" and "Petrine" with Pauline being primarily cross-cultural and Petrie primarily focused on the already existing people of God.

Both are valid expressions of leadership.

josenmiami said...

sorry, I said "Petrie" but I meant to say "Petrine."

Michael said...

I have read with interest the comments around Christology, Missiology, and ecclesiology so here is my two sense worth....It seems to me that reality has a way of forcing us to think, rethink, or reaffirm what we believe. When you are in the trenches all three might need to be reinengaged. If we were looking at this from an action perspective I believe our Christology will need to grow and expand as we try to complete the mission and do church (what ever that looks like). But in many ways it can't grow or expand unless we are doing. Doing helps us to see the gaps in being and causes us to look to Christ. Without the doing we won't see our need for more of Christ to be formed in us. Even our Christology has to be informed by the person of Christ. What does everyone think?

Brian Emmet said...

Hmmm..."the wind bloweth where it listeth," so perhaps we just need to learn how to listen for which leaves seem to be rustling (the Christological, missional or ecclesiological)...

Hey, apropos of nothing we've been discussing, but very pertinent to what I feel is happening for us via this blog, are some words from Eugene Peterson's little book "The Wisdom of Each Other: A Conversation Between Spiritual Friends." For those who may not know, but nevertheless desire, my opinion, I find Peterson one of the most helpful, insightful and prophetic (a term he would decline!) authors currently writing. If you have not dipped into "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction," "Leap Over a Wall," or "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places," please send me your mailing address and I will buy you copies and send them to you.

Anyway, here's what Peterson writes about "spiritual friendship":

"'Friend' sets us in a nonhierarchical, open, informal, spontaneous company of Jesus- friends, who verbally develop relationships of responsibility and intimacy by means of conversation. Characteristically, we do not make pronouncements to one another [note to Brian: ouch!] or look up texts by which to challenge one another; we simply talk out whatever feelings are in our hearts as Jesus' friends.

"... [w]ithin that large context to which preaching and teaching provide the shape and content there are other ways of using words that are just as important, if not as conspicuous: questions and conversations, comments and ruminations, counsel and suggestion."

Sounded a lot like what is happening among us on our litle blog!

Jeremiah said...

alright, I left the 105th post on the other, but since it has been abandoned, I'll follow the leader(s). The Triumvirate of Christology, Missiology, and Ecclesiology is interesting. The way I see those interacting is in the same way I see the human body interacting.

Christology = Brain
Missiology = Muscles & Organs
Ecclesiology = Skeleton

Obviously all three need each other and support each other. God's creation is very interesting in that He tends to use just a handful of ideas to create a vast multitude of diverse expressions. Many complicated spiritual truths are therefore simply illustrated in the natural world.

As far as smoking cigars goes...I can't come to Columbus (out of vacation time already), but Cincinnati is on the way for you Floridians and... Kentucky (just South of Cincy) embraces cigar smokers with open arms. Just an idea...

josenmiami said...

I am grateful to his Covenant faithfulness, which is new every morning:

LAM 3:22 The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
LAM 3:23 They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.

josenmiami said...

...good morning! His covenant-faithfulness was new again...up early waiting for me!

I am also grateful for new leaders and thinkers in a new generation: Patrick, William, Jeremiah, Sarah, Susannah, Sean and John!!

Patrick Currie has posted some good thoughts on Postmodernism on his blog

http://simplereckonings.blogspot.com/

I am out the door, but I hope to get back to respond to him later today.

blessings!

Sean said...

I guess that's why maybe the church only goes through reformations rather than revolutions or complete transformations. God is making things new while retaining the core of His Church: Himself and His dominion (which includes us in a specific sense and the universe in general sense...maybe). So, if things are wrong or misguided in His Body, He doesn't kill the body (a revolution) or shape-change into something completely different (transformation), but rather reforms/fixes/heals Himself (reformation).

I used to think that what we need in the Church is a revolution, but the LORD clearly showed me in the Scriptures (in Exodus specifically) how I was very wrong. Revolutionaries want to topple everything and start completely fresh. He doesn't want that. He doesn't want to replace the cornerstone of the building with a new one. A revolution is from a spirit of rebellion; a reformation is from a spirit of love and truth. He wants a reformation - in fact, He's constantly reforming His body (us) to His likeness - has been for a long time. It requires something new for us to grasp, but maybe the something new really isn't that new since it's Jesus Himself. I'm just thinking out loud here.

I agree with Jeremiah about illustrations being taken from nature.

So, how can we participate in reforming the church now - our spheres of influences/specific communities - ourselves? What needs to be reformed? I have to ask myself, how is my Christology, ecclesiology, and missiology? In other words, how are these dynamically lived out in my life (not what I think about them)? Brothers, I fall short in so many ways. I have some serious reflecting to do perhaps...

Shalom.

Jeremiah said...

Sean,

I really like what you said about the difference between reformation and revolution. That really rings with something I've been thinking about lately and that is the judgement that GOD is currently inflicting on our culture/society/country. I read a book by Winston Churchill called the History of the English Speaking Peoples and I was struck at how much work over literal centuries GOD has put into taking our culture from a primitive tribal culture to the sophisticated machine it is today. God said to me "Why would I completely destroy what I've built in judgement?" This is exactly what you are getting at in the Church. HE has been working at shaping His Bride for millenia, He doesn't want her destroyed, He wants her built up. If there are blights and blemishes, they need removed with patience in such a way that Life comes and not destruction. i.e. the parable of the wheat and the tares. Anyway, good stuff here

Brian Emmet said...

OK, can we develop some other examples of ways in which God has made/is making all things new? For example, when we come to faith in Christ, it is accurate to say that our "old life/idenity/self" somehow died and "a new creation" came into being... yet that new creation is still ME in ways that are frecognizable to you all. We recogniize that God planted some things in the "old" me as it were (for example, a love for music) that no only con tinue into the "new creation m," but which are ujniquely fulfilled only in and through the new creation in Christ.

So the interelation of old and new probably has something to do with the dynamic of death-and-resurrection...

josenmiami said...

good thoughts Brian. Jeremiah and Sean: you guys add so much to our conversation! Thank you.

I am still pondering the "Christology -> <-missiology -> <- ecclesiology" discussion but have not had time to write down my thoughts. I think it is worth pursuing.

Regarding your comments Brian...death and resurrection...it makes me think about the constant death and multiplication of new cells in our bodies over a life time. I heard somewhere that our body completely renews itself with brand new cells 22 times in a lifetime. there are robabaly some good parrallels there for us as we discuss the body of Christ.

I'm off to the keys with Debbie...I'll be back by Monday or so. If I get time, I am going to post some more thoughts on postmodernism or the issue mentioned above on my c-far blog Blessings to you all!

Sean said...

The last three posts have really helped.

A reforming spirit then, exists in a tension between the new and the old, between death and life, for individuals as well as communities. The resurrection of Christ and the imagery we glean from nature are examples of what He does.

Imagine a community wherein God burns off or refines the excess parts of you and grafts in His likeness - like a skin graft for a burn victim. The "skin graft" is from His Spirit and from those in the community whom He has already refined - which is real discipleship. Those of whom He has refined need to be grafted into others.

There are a lot of people who do not want to be purified. They avoid it. Whole denominations even. A reformation is going to result in this process of death and renewal, which can be painful I imagine.

I was writing this all down to get it clear in my head that this is what we're sort of talking about...if not, please correct me! (I'm counting on you all).

Shalom!

josenmiami said...

sounds like one of my favorite princples from the reformation:
"ecclesia reformata est semper reformando est." ... ok, ok, I am out the door 8-)

Patrick said...

The church reformed and always being reformed. Always being reformed, as in being formed again and again until we fit the image of the Son.

Back to what Brian touched on, there was a certain death that occurred in baptism, yet we retained much of ourselves in certain areas. "God planted some things in the 'old' me as it were...which are uniquely fulfilled only in and through the new creation in Christ." I would propose that a change in source and destination would account for this.

Galatians 6:15 and 2 Corinthians 5:17 make it clear that we have are now a new creation, not a remodeling of the old. (2 Cor 5:16-21 is a great passage.) But in Colossians 1:13, 14 Paul writes that Jesus rescued us from the evil kingdom and "transferred us to the kingdom of His Beloved Son." So, I infer: there were some facets of our being that were not completely done away with in our death, but were simply transferred to a new domain, to be under new rule and glory.

This might have something to do with body/soul/spirit. (Charles Simpson has stated that our spirit has been reconciled, our souls are being reconciled and our bodies will be reconciled on the day that is to come; all through Jesus.)

Jeremiah said...

Sean,

You made a couple of comments that triggered some thoughts I've been having for awhile. Your analogy of burning is good. if you read specifically in Is. 33-34 it asks the question "who of us can dwell with the everlasting burning? Who can dwell with the consuming fire?" If you read just a few verses you would think hell is being described. But if you keep going you see that the "everlasting burning" is referring to GOD Almighty. There are many, many interesting references to this throughout the scripture, but another interesting picture is how John the baptist describes Jesus, as "He will baptize you with...fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." It is the picture of an ominous figure coming, wreathed in flames with a pitchfork in his hands to execute judgement. I find it interesting that the devil has tried to claim this exact image and then make it silly with the addition of horns and a tail. But that is a side issue, the point is that over and over again
GOD reveals himself as an all consuming, refining fire who burns off the old and leaves gold. The genius of GOD is truly revealed in the Both/And mystery of the fact that HE can take the worst possible thing that happens, and bring about a Good so Great that it could not have happened had not the hideous event happened. i.e. The Cross. Alright, lunch is done...back to work.

John the Musician said...

Brian, I appreciate your post from May 9th as us artistic types are prone to more feeling than intellectual delvings. So, with that said, my feeling is that we are having some great discussions, but in truth I haven't felt them resonate in my spirit. I wonder if maybe we're missing the point?

I've personaly gone through a period in which all of my desire was summed up in Christ, it lasted about a week and I'm not sure how it started, but literally for that entire week I truly had a deep longing to know and live in Christ. Now that time is gone and at times it seems I've reverted almost to hostility against Christ's Lorship of my life. Such extremes are hard to understand, but I wonder if as a young pup in this group, I might ask some of you older dogs to give some advice to me about how you stayed on the high-road? I think it has something to do with the fact that Christ does make all things new, I think he renews our passion and desire for him, and I think that is a continual proccess. Any thoughts?

William said...

What we are saying here is not an easy thing for a lot of people to grab and hold on to. That this process of making us new involves burning away of the old, being put in the Refiner's fire.

In Hebrews, the writer says Jesus was perfected in his suffering, and that he was taught obedience in suffering. The student is not above his master.

It seems when God is teaching us through sufferings, our job is just to hold fast our hope and endure.

G.K. Chesterson, on a different note, has some interesting thoughts on newness. I think this is one way that God reforms us and makes us new:

"The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged...grown-ups are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that GOd makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. I tmay be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

I think God restores to us child-like joy, for Him and his work.

josenmiami said...

there is lot to comment on in here...I am enjoying your thoughts Sean and Jeremiah. Sean, I think the reforming spirit also exists in times of crisis…on the edge of chaos. Turner (cited by Hirsch) calls it liminality: a period of change and indefinition when identities, values and boundaries are in flux and disorientation results. Alan Hirsch points out that the richest theology of the church, and the times of greatest advance in mission have often come in these times of extreme change, persecution or liminality when the church’s very existence was threatened…the edge of chaos. He also points out that according to living systems theory, when an organism or an ecosystem nears equilibrium, it is actually nearing death or extinction (only dead bodies don’t change). In order to survive, living systems need diversity and adversity.

Jeremiah, you are absolutely right about the genius of God in his ability to take evil and turn it for good. Amazing!

John, could it be that the extremes have to do with having an 'artistic' temperament? I was reading the final chapter of Hirsch’s book today on our way back from Key West, and he quoted anthropologist Victor Turner as saying about artists:

“Prophets and artists tend to be liminal and marginal people, ‘edgemen,’ who strive with a passionate sincerity to rid themselves of the clich├ęs associated with status and role-playing and to enter into vital relations with other men in fact or imagination” (Hirsch:227).

Patrick, the reformed church, always reforming itself, sounds a lot like an organic body, constantly renewing itself with new cell replication. Some things are constantly dying even as other things are being born anew.

William, awesome quote from G.K. Chesterton. John took with him to Ohio a copy of his classic book, “The Everlasting of Man.” I have not read it yet. I find that the greatest compliment that I can give someone lately is that they are very ‘child-like’ in their spirit. Often they misunderstand me.

I just posted a new essay on my Faith and Reason blog
(http://c-far.blogspot.com/) on how to translate the biblical phrase “kingdom of God” into secular-speak. I have been thinking about it for months, and recently got some ideas from Bob Mumford. While I was in the keys, I read a chapter from a new book by Brian McLaren that addresses that very issue. All comments, complaints, and corrections are welcome.

I am still thinking about Christology, missiology and ecclesiology. I agree that they all interact and influence one another, but I suspect that there really is a good and viable reason why Christology and missiology must come first and determine our ecclesiology. I will post something on it in a few days.

Love you all ~ j

John the Musician said...

I guess it could just be my artistic side displaying itself. Just thought I'd ask and see if anyone has had similar dealings with God and what approach he's taken in the situation.

John M. said...

Yes John, it is a continual process; it's only by his grace, and, yes, at least for me, it is cyclical. It seems that I am easily distracted from keeping centered on Him, and that my zeal waxes and wanes. And after all these years I still find myself struggling with rebellion against Him -- sometimes open, sometimes passive.

I recently went through a season where I knew that I was disobeying Him in a certain area, but I was enjoying it too much to want to repent. It scared me. After all these years of walking with Him and knowing His love and grace I knew I was disobeying and rebelling, and I didn't want to quit and repent. I did have enough sense by His grace to open it to another brother and to my wife. Finally I told the Lord, "I don't have any repentence in me, I don't even have a desire to repent. I know I need help, but unless you grant me the grace of repentence, I can't do it. Finally, my will turned and He granted me the ability to repent. After that I went through a process of rebuilding, before I felt that I was back where I had been in my relationship with Him before the whole ordeal. That was not long ago, and I learned and am still learning much about myself -- namely that my righteousness is filthy rags, and that without His grace I will self-destruct.

So, one never arrives. One never gets to go on automatic pilot. Every day is by grace through faith. It was that way when I was in my 20's, it is that way now that I'm in my 50's, and I have realized that it will be the same through however many decades the Lord gives me on the earth. I used to think that when I got to be the age I am now, that I would have it all together and be perfectly mature and complete. Not so, for me...every day is still by grace through faith.

I don't know whether this encourages you or discourages you, but, at least for me, that is reality.

One thing the Lord has showed me is that true commitment does not mean never failing or sinning. What it means is not giving up. If you're familiar with the movie "Chariot's of Fire", there is a scene in which the lead character, Eric Liddel, who ran for Scotland in, I believe the 1920 Olympics, was intentionally knocked down early in a 400 meter race. He gets back up and with an incredible determination, passes the field one-by-one and wins the race.

That's commitment. It's not, not falling down, it's getting back up and staying in the race. Sometimes, Satan trips you. Sometimes circumstances trip you. Sometimes you trip yourself by your own foolishness, rebelliion, and sin. But the issue is not that you fall on your face, or why. The issue is that you get up and stay in the race.

In His Kingdom, it's not the first one across the finish line that wins. Everyone who finishes obtains the crown.

William said...

John M.,

Thank you for sharing that.

Michael said...

John the musician, thanks for your candor.

I don't know too many who in their determination to follow Christ do not face what you face. I know I do, more than I like to admit.

Matter-of-fact one of the challenges I face is what defines a Christian or a follower of Christ? I am coming to realize that the my earlier definitions do not match up with the teachings of Christ. Especially when He says
"Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven."
That is alot different than go to church on Sunday, participate in a church program, and pay your tithes. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Recently I have taken some comfort in John's account of Jesus' words in John 15. As I was thinking about Jesus words to "Abide with Me" I thought about how the disciples abided with Christ. My first thoughts about the disciples is that they just stuck with Him. They went were He went, and tried to do what He was doing. They were less than perfect, at times more downs than ups. So I figured that is what I needed to do, just figure how to stick with Jesus.

I have probably over simplified this, but that has been my thinking lately.

Sean said...

Hey all, I'm back from a weekend in the country with my wife's family, so I'm reading through to catch up. A lot happens in a couple of days!

josenmiami said...

yup, that shows the power of decentralized networks: they can become like 'living systems' and take on a life of their own!

HEY JEREMIAH!!! Can you email me or Brian when you get this? The email address I have for you keeps bouncing back to me. I have [jeremiahcole@hotmail.com] is that accurate?

By-the-way, some or most of you received Andrew Perriman's reply to my email about translating the kingdom of God. Andrew is a serious 'emerging' theologian, as well as a committed missionary to secular Europe. He has recently written a book called "The Coming of the Son of Man" which I have not read yet. I know that he leans heavily toward interpretation from a historical narrative context. Here is the Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Son-Man-Testament-Eschatology/dp/1842272993/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-3773717-9778569?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1179150759&sr=8-1

Sean said...

John M. - thanks for that post. I have walked with Christ for 16 years and there has been struggle at times. One of the first things the Lord shared with me when I was a young Christian was this:

"Sean, you're either going to follow Me or fight Me." I do both, consistently. But John, you're right: I don't give up following Him. I keep pressing on. I made a committment to follow Him the rest of my days, no matter what happens. So that's maybe the litmus test of what loyalty and faithfulness are about - following Him and not giving up.

I am also comforted to the fact that Jesus is hanging on to me as much as I'm trying to hang onto Him. "He who began a good work in you..." He will complete me.

Joseph - I will think about your idea about reformations happening in times of crisis. As far as ecclesiology interacting with Christology and missiology - all three derive from a single source:
Christ is the cornerstone of the body who reaches the world.

Patrick said...

Sean, John, I am humbled to be among men who write such words. Joseph and I have been discussing repentance (on another blog), which I think is related to the "pressing on" mentality. Having the gift of repentance keeps us tied to Him in humble submission and awe. (J really hit a grand slam when he quoted C.S. Lewis about repenting.)

I wanted to more or less pose a idea about the Christology, missiology, ecclesiology quote. Here's the quote for reference:

In engaging mission in a post-modern culture: Christology determines missiology, and missiology determines ecclesiology (Hirsch:142).

My thinkling is as follows. In differing circles, the order of the three could vary to some degree. In this quote, however, Hirsch specifically details the purpose of "engaging mission in a post-modern culture." In a postmodern culture, Christology has to come first. We would think missiology might, but Jesus the person gave us the mission, so who He is plays a major role. Any mission we have is born out of who He is.

There is no doubt in my mind that ecclesiology is third, being dependent upon the former. (Leaning more toward the structure/nature of the church as opposed to doctrine.) The function and makeup of the church is to serve the mission, which is to serve Christ.

The "body of Christ" analogy fits well here. The nature of Jesus determines the purpose of His work. The purpose of His work determines what His hand, foot, eye, will look like. These are my thinklings.

Brian Emmet said...

Whew! I'm just back from NC, watching my two daughters graduate from their respective graduate programs, so I'm huffing and puffing to catch up with the conversation.

I'm very grateful for and helped by everyone's honesty and comments, but will try to jump in the stream where it is, rather than backchatting through the last dozen pieces.

I did want to respond briefly to John Musician's query. I don't think I have anything new to add to what others have written, but did want to affirm what they wrote. The phrase that has been most helpful to me is Eugene Peterson's "a long obedience in the same direction." Obedience is something we learn and practice, not something that just happens to us. And it's obeying, not feeling--it's something we live out, together, not just constantly checking our spiritual dipsticks to see if we're "running low." It's a long obedience--lifelong... which also means there's time for lots of things along the way... and part of that is boredom, routine, feeling like I'm not getting anywhere, experiencing my deep resistance to Christ's Lordship. There are also many wonderful things along the way of the long obedience, but I'm trying to affirm for John Musician that the wilderness it sounds like he may be in is designed to bring to the surface all the garbage that we've learned to hide so well. The wilderness can also be the place where we become most alert and attentive to God, so keep your eyes and ears open for what God is saying and doing right in front of you.

It's a long obedience in the same direction--towards God the Father through Jesus His Son by the indwelling Holy Spirit. "Direction" means movement, growth, change. I think too many of us just want to point in the right direction rather than heading off in the right direction!

Sean said...

Interesting Patrick - I will have to collate.

My questions are in regards to what postmodern culture looks like and whether people who are postmoderns know what that means. The term has multiple definitions and multiple expressions. Most social theorists cannot even come to an agreement what postmodernism means.

Another question is the postmodern culture: community means something just as much as Christology. You can find Christ in a community and through a community; one's perception of Christ can be constructed through various sources - the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures - as well as the community you're a part of.

I'm not sure what to think completely. Maybe someone could define the terms Christology, missiology, and ecclesiology?

josenmiami said...

Patrick, how the heck do you do the bold and italics? Help me out here bro.

Sean, I agree with Patrick about the c-ology, m-ology, ecc-logy discussion. I think it really does matter which one drives the other, although I fully agre that they are interactive.

Christology must take precedence as Christ is the 'head' of the body and is the Lord of the harvest. In my opinion, missiology must shape our ecclesiology and not the other way around, if we are to be a missional church...a church in harmony with the purpose of God. A church that allows ecclesiology to determine their missiological practice, will inevitably expect newcomers and outsiders to 'fit in' with maintaining their structures and practices. We, as the church, are commanded to go make disciples, preach the gospel and to seek save that which is lost. That will often mean adjusting our ecclesiological values and structures to adapt to the mission.

Brian, I never got through "Long Obedience in the same direction" but the title spoke volumes to me. I fully agree with you that virtue comes from daily discipline and habits.

Aristotle: "The moral virtues, then, are produced in us neither by nature nor against nature. Nature, indeed, prepares in us the ground for their reception, but their complete formation is the product of habit."

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, I get a little nervous when the church's mission becomes to seek and save that which is lost. It's a quarrel I tend to have with all reform/renewal movements that, to my mind, become messianic about the church. Whenever we find ourselves thinking along the lines, "If only we could just get the church right..."
One could argue that the church preceded mission... after all, Jesus first assembled a bunch of pretty clueless guys (the church!) Mission emerged in the context of a community gathering around Jesus.
I don't want to get in an argument about evangelical subculture. Let it be what it is, let it bear whatever fruit God grants, and as for the rest of us--"Follow Jesus." I think we need to be very careful not to think that we're following him better than the guys over there.
That said, let's be as creative, imaginative, missional, and faithful as we possibly can, and ask that God would graciously enable us to bear fruit that abides.

sarahmorgado said...

I'm trying to keep up with all this "theological discussion", but I really feel out of place and unqualified to make any substantial comments. The part that really stuck out to me from Jose's comment was:

"But then of course, I don’t think I would want to live under “the kingdom of God” as defined by some portions of the religious right either."

I (Sarah) personally don't believe that defining the Kingdom of God is as important as living our lives "loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbor as our self."

In fact, maybe that IS the simplest definition of the kingdom of God. Jesus himself said “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Mat 22:40) If we could all just learn to do this simple thing and discard the squabbling that “Religious Doctrine/theology” brings into the picture, then we would have heaven on earth.

AND if each person’s heart was truly moving toward God, then Jesus would be revealed to him/her b/c he IS God. If we loved those around us as we love ourselves, don’t you think that they would want to know whose grace, love and mercy we are tapped into?

Let’s not forget that God doesn’t need our help to speak to or touch the “unsaved”. I know many mature Christians who were never discipled, or told “How” to be good Christians. Instead, each of them had an encounter with God at some point and b/c their hearts were pressing toward God, He showed them how live and grow in him. (Look at the experience of Saul/Paul. It says in Acts 9:18-20: “Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, … AT ONCE he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.”) He didn't even go through a period of disciplship!

Jesus himself simply did the following: 1. Obeyed his Father 2. Loved those around him unconditionally 3. Presented the Truth to all who would hear. In doing these three things, he changed the whole world. Instead of making things so complicated, why can’t we simply follow in his footsteps?

josenmiami said...

Hey Brian,

this came up in a previous discussion. You mentioned being nervous and the danger of spiritual pride or elitism. (at least that is what I understood). I am seriously giving you that impression? or are you comments more of a generic response? I take it very seriously...and I do not feel that anything I am saying is intended to imply that anyone is doing anything superior or more 'pure' than anyone else. Help me understand that.

Seeking the lost was probably a poor choice of words, I was thinking of Luke 15. I understand that the churches purpose is more than just mission... however, I also feel that the church's purpose is NOT just maintaince of the status quo.

It seems pretty clear to me that if we put ecclesiology first before mission, we end up focued on maintaining our structures and the burden is on the "outsiders" to adapt to us, rather than the people of God "going" to them. Atraction versus incarnation.

I think it is debatable if Jesus and his followers constituted a "church" before Matt. 10 (Mission and commission). One might say an apostolic team or a group of friends.

However, if they did constitute a church...then you are helping me make my case for the "Jesus and the 12" model of church life. Mobile, relational, organic, disciple-oriented, and VERY missional...

...and again... I am not comparing me or anyone as being more pure or more spiritual than anyone else... I wrote a whole post on that in my other blog. Just want to be clear.

Sean said...

How can we have a proper view of Christology first before we take in consideration missiology and ecclesiology? I guess that's the question I wrestle with, because a high view of Christology has to have a dynamic function to it, and you find that dynamic function expressed in missiology and ecclesiology. Otherwise, your Christology is theoretical - it is static - it is nothing more than an idea, like Plato's God of Reason. This is me thinking out loud as I write. So, Christ is the King over all the earth - in that He reigns over the earth - exercises His dominion. And He does this through His body and through His missional fervor. Christology only has real, physical content in His active reshaping of the world. It's more than a theological musing. We can only understand what Christology means in the real world through our ecclesiological experiences and how we interact with the world. Therefore, it is still difficult for me to wrap my brain around the notion that Christology must be first. I don't think any of the three (Chr-ology, m-ology, or ecc-ology) are "first" or "last". They are all part of a whole operating in congruence with one another. Without one, the other two are in trouble, at least functionally.

The whole then, is defined by God's sovereign authority over the cosmos as the Creator. That must be at the heart of everything I think. Human beings are created in His image, but that image has been torn asunder by sin, defiled by rebellion and idolatry, imbued with violence, anger, jealousy, rage, murder, greed, and everything else sorrowful we have come to know as the human experience. God had us sacrifice animals for an atonement for our sin. But lo! We have sacrificed our fellow man for our selfish desires. So, He sent a remedy - His Son - to carry out a mission through a community. I think of this in highly fluid and unstructured terms - a movement of the Spirit.

josenmiami said...

Very eloquently expressed Sean. You sent me back to the drawing board….still thinking! That’s what we are supposed to do in here, right? The Thinklings.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph and I have been sidebarring on my most recent comment, and I'll spare you all the details. To clarify: I don't think Joseph is guilty of pride or elitism. What I like about this blog is that we can push back at one another's ideas without attacking one another. I do want to push back on the idea that reform/renewal is a most tricky business, especially if we start to feel that we're in charge of it--"God needs us to rescue the church!" I don't find Joseph at all culpable of any of this and am sorry if my remarks suggested otherwise.

Sarah, let me encourage you that, based on your contributions so far, you are more than capable of doing good theological thinking, and have just as much a place at our little e-table as any of the rest of us. Please keep showing up and firing away!

Sean, you gave a pretty good synopsis, esp. in your last paragraph, of what used to go under the heading of "systematic theology." I mean that as a compliment! We tend to get impatient with "theology, doctrine and all that stuff" (my words) and wonder, in Sarah's words, why we can't just keep it simple, basic. But even Sarah's three "basics" or "fundamentals"--obey God; love unconditionally; declare and demonstrate Truth--require some hard thinking, as well as hard praying, hard Scripture study and hard living--not "hard" as in "bad, difficult," but as "requiring continuing concentration, attentiveness, focus."

John the Musician said...

I'd like to sum up the three-ologies if I may. The Trinity. I believe the three aspects to be a reflection of the state in which God exists. You can easily look at it this way, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both different expressions of the same God. (Of course if I'm commiting heiresy(sp?) then you'll forgive me as I'm still quite young and have a lot of learning to do) God is primary in the beginning, followed by the appearance of Jesus in the world, and finally by the gift of the Holy Spirit to the early ecclesia. Jesus and the Holy Spirit were always one with God, but they were not as pronounced, the focus was on God the Father. In the same way we can sum up Christology as essentially the nature of God, Missiology, basically as what Christ came into the world for,(that is on a mission to redeem the world) and ecclesiology, as what is produced by the Holy Spirit living in us.

I think ultimately that although we may never understand the nature of the Trinity and/or the three-ologies, we can at least see that the latter are a reflection of the former.

Please correct me if I'm wrong in any way, but I feel like this is fairly accurate.

Also want to give a big Thank You! to you guys for the affirmation and encouragement. It's very good for me to hear that there are brothers walking the walk with me.

Also dad, there's a list of HTML tags you can use in your posts at the top of the message box in which you write your post.

josenmiami said...

thanks John and Brian.

Here is an urgent prayer request from Susanne Simpson on behalf of her monther-in-law, Carolyn Simpson, Charles' wife:

>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Dear Brothers,

This is an update on Carolyn Simpson. Mom had surgery this afternoon. She is doing good considering the critical nature of the surgery. Tonight and the next week are especially critical. We are grateful for each hurdle that she makes. They removed a blockage in her abdomen. The prognosis is not good. We are taking it one day at a time.

Thanks again for your prayers.

Susanne Simpson

Sean said...

John the Musician,
I like the Trinity imagery example. I will ponder that one - you have me thinking.

I would think that all three Persons of the trinity existed in the beginning. That one person of the trinity did not "come from" the other...of course, this gets into some of the fundamental questions regarding the nature of Christ that the church fathers struggled with (and many still do, for different reasons, perhas!). The Holy Spirit was in the beginning, hovering above the waters of the earth. John 1:1 declares the Son as God.

I guess I'm still in the camp that thinks ecc, miss, Chrst-ology are part of a whole and part of one another and are intertwined - beyond our comprehension. Maybe that's what the Trinity is. It definitely is a good picture of what we're talking about - thanks!

Brian Emmet said...

Sorry if I'm beating the same drum, but Peterson's book "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places" is one of the best books on what the Trinity "means" and how it "works" that I have come across.

josenmiami said...

I know...I know... I am digging through my piles... I know I have it somewhere...

Ok JohntheMusician, I have a good quote for you from the Purpose-Driven-Life (p. 89). This is discussing how to become a friend of God through constant prayer.

"Practicing the presence of God is a skill, a habit you can develop. Just as musicians practice scales every day in order to play beautiful music with ease, you must force yourself to think about God at different times in your day. You must train your mind to remember God" (p.89).

Warren's point here is in agreement with the basic thrust of Dallas Willard: if you want to grow up to be like Michael Jordan, you better spend a LOT of time in the gym with a basketball. If you want to grow up to be like Jesus....well, you had better start today, and work on it a little bit every single day.

John M. said...

Hey Sarah,
Don't feel inadequate, you hold your own quite well! And I like what you're saying.

Brian, congratulations on your daughter's’ graduation. What degrees did they earn? My youngest, Sarah, graduated from Asbury College Sunday. She's the last one!

Regarding the C,M,E question, I would have to go with Sean's and John’s comments. They have to be a synergistic whole. Trying to dissect the three is a little like trying to separate the Trinity. You can't dissect a living thing without killing it (not that we could kill the trinity!). Using Joseph's living systems concept, I think that in practical application C,M, and E is a living system.

All things are summed up in Christ. He is the source, motivation and vision for our mission, and He promised that He would build His Church.

So, in our discussion of one or more of the C,M,E, triad, we need to keep the holistic picture in mind.

John M. said...

Now that I’ve argued for the “synergistic whole” idea I would like to make a comment about ecclesiology.

I think that one problem we have had is that for the last 500 years or so no one has asked the question, "What is the Church? What should it look like. What has been added to the structure that is unnecessary, or even counter productive to being a living breathing organism: family, vine, body, community, etc."?

It seems that most who have followed Jesus into mission, in the past several hundred years haven’t even considered the form the mission and its "end result" will take. They assume they already know. It hasn't been until the last 50 years or so that missiologists have begun to ask themselves intentional and critical questions about what form the church should take in the cultures they are trying to reach.

As I've already expressed the simple, organic route is what is in my heart. (I think I've also made it clear that I don't expect or think that everyone else should or will have the same vision.)

I really like what Joseph says in his other blog site in the essay "Deconstructing the Church", when he says that for the last several years he keeps asking, how much can we remove from the existing structure and still have church?

Another way to ask the question is, "What is necessary to have a church? (Let's see -- pulpit, pews, sound system, multi-media projection system -- oops, just kidding!) What is the most basic unit? Jesus said that it only took two or three gathered for Him to show up.

Are the scriptures necessary? Think of a non-literate oral culture without a translation in their language. If they have at least one person among them who can tell them the story of the scriptures, can they be a church without a Bible? They would need one eventually (I think), but do they need one to start being church. The “New Testament” church didn’t have a N.T., they were creating it.

How many people do you need? What about sacraments? Do the people need to gather on a certain day, time or place to be church? Do they need to gather a certain number of times in a given time-period?

Should the intent be to grow larger and larger, and more complex or should it be to stay, small, simple and organic and multiply units rather than add individuals? Another way of looking at that last question: Which would be the higher value to the individual, the mission and the Kingdom: 50 groups of 10 or one group of 500? I’m sure the value could be argued either way. I know where I land on that question, but the point is, does the question even get asked and/or seriously considered. Most, already assume the answer from day one.

How many church plants begin in a non-traditional setting – home, storefront, warehouse, tent, etc., but somehow seem to be regarded as not really established and a full expression of church until property is purchased and a “church building” is built. The church has a “you build it, and they will come” mentality.

I believe we must become more intentional about our ecclesiology and not just assume that church should be the way we’ve always known it to be.

OK Jimmy, I'm learning from you. I just cut one long post into two parts.

josenmiami said...

hi John,

I have not totally capitulated yet on the C, E and M issue: but you all have me down slowly cutting off my air (now I know how it feels, Brian). I still think that we draw all of our theology utlimately from Christ: his life, work and teachings, incarnation, praxis, death and resurrection. Thats Christology.

John, in a private conversation with Brian, I realized a mistake I was making in my communication of my ideas for more flexible, organic church.

I agree with things you said above, in terms of starting new churches to reach new people. However, I also believe two things: one is that there is TREMENDOUS diversity in the church of size, structure, style, format,worship, etc...at least as much diversity as there is cultures and people-groups. Even as we advocate new and flexible froms of 'organic church', we need to emphasize that we are not advocating a "one size fits all" approach, nor a "change-for-the-saek of change" nor are we negating any tradition or approach that is really working currently and fulfilling Christs mandate to make disciples, to love another, and to love God.

2nd thing: the call to change, to experiment with new wineskins, is an 'apostolic' call to extend the kingdom and reach new people in new ways. It is not necessarily a call to change what already exists.

I have seen people waste tremendous amounts of energy trying to transition churches that were just fine and were satisfying a need in those that it served. I think the biblical patten (Paul) was to start the church, and then move on to new fields, rather than constantly trying to tinker with that which was already established.

we need to find ways to think and act "new" without implying that the Old Wine is not good (even better). An old wineskins is fine for containing old wine...and old wine is better! We just need new wineskins for new wine which has an "edge" on it and ferments.

Does that make any sense? In other words, in stead of telling the pastors/teachers/elders that they need to throw out their structures and change, those of us with a missionary/apostolic vision need to ask them to pray for us, give us the benift of the doubt, and even send a little money, while we go out and rescue some sinners and put our faith to action and start "acting" our way to new thinking.

If more of our apostolic guys were doing that, our Covenant movement would not be dying the slow death of old age. And the pastors would not get defensive when we start talking revolution/reformation/renewal/ and all the other re-s.

am I making any sense?

By-the-way, I just received the following email from a girl I study with who is also a professional belly dancer. I think she just crossed over the 0 point on the Engel's scale, from the minus side to the plus side, or to use McLaren's phrase, she just entered into God's divine dance:

"Hi Joe,
I started reading the Purpose book again with a whole new set of eyes!
Thank you for that gift.
I love it.
I am learning a whole lot.
Hanan"

Oh God, just give me a few good years and some fellow workers who understand this, and maybe we can do something new and good for you here in Miami!

Sean said...

Joseph, I do agree with you that Christology is really important, but the only way you're going to understand or grasp Christology is by seeing it expressed or realized in the real world - i.e. in the contexts of missiology and ecclesiology. In other words, Christ is really only understood in His functionality - His glory is understood from the work of His hands. A Greek/Hellenistic mindset would grasp the idea of Christ - an image of Christ - a concept of Christ and who He is - something you grasp in your mind. A Hebrew mind understands Christ by what He has accomplished and what he is accomplishing - His actions - His character and who He is being defined by what He does. And He is felt and experienced - it is visceral. There is a book by Thorleif Boman called HEBREW THOUGHT COMPARED TO GREEK. It has changed the way I view God.

I realize I have postmodern tendencies in my perspective. I am trying to reconcile this. I believe Jesus is the Messiah because:
* I accepted Him in my life when I was 17 years old (or He accepted me perhaps)
* My twin brother and mother did as well with similar, dramatic results
* People all over the world are and dramatic things are happening
* The stories in the Scriptures confirm the reality I and others have experienced
* The foundation of the Scriptures, the Torah, are confirmed in the New Testament and in the person of Jesus
* The Holy Spirit bears witness on my soul with the peace of God

I used to have the view that "the Bible says it, so it's the truth and I believe it." While I believe the Scriptures are true and inspired by the Holy Spirit, there are many other things that confirm my faith, and most of them are through how I perceive an experience or understand something God has done. If I don't perceive it or understand it, then it is out of my purview. Reality is really what I perceive - I know it is more than that - but I can only grasp what I can perceive, even if things I don't perceive affect me. So, for Christology, I don't put it "first" because functionally I can't necessarily perceive it as "first".

I know this is too long and I'm bracing for someone to shoot me down at any moment (I'm going to try to dig out my old Army flak jacket). John M. - I wanted to respond to your post but I'll wait a little while...

Shalom.

josenmiami said...

bang, bang, bang...you are supposed to fall down, doggone it! You ever heard the joke about the guy in the army that didn't have a real gun? I'll tell it sometime.

Patrick said...

Sean, I agree with the Greek/Hebrew understanding concept you gave. I spent some time in Kenya a couple of years ago, and they, unWestern in thinking and culture, practiced the same "know through experience" concept. Whereas here in intellectual America, we strongly favor a head knowledge over experience.

Before I state my opinion about Christology coming in any place other than first on the list, I do think it should be restated that these three could be a developing cycle. A little Christology leads you to a little missionology, which produces a little ecclesiology, which in turn bears greater Christology, and so on.

Now for my thinkling: The reason I think we should be so adamant about Christology coming first is found in John 1: "In the beginning was the Word...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory..." The Word was in the beginning before mankind was made. This is the Christology I am referring to. Missionology and ecclesiology did not exist before the fall of man (or the NT for that matter), and they will cease to exist when Jesus returns. But I do believe Christology will always be important.

Jose, I haven't heard that one yet.

josenmiami said...

Hey Patrick, good thoughts… I tend to agree with you.

Sean: I hope you were put off by my playfulness or took it as being flippant. I was rushing out the door for a med. appnt and you expressed yourself with sufficient convincing clarity that I could not think of anything else to say on the spot.

I tend to thing that maybe both views are right when viewed from different angles. Perhaps we have in mind differing concepts of ecclesiology or Christology. I have some unformed thoughts that I need to process along those lines. I do agree with you that we must see theology and its various subfields as an integral, interrelated whole, each part influencing the rest. I also strongly agree in the need to adopt a more Hebrew worldview where we deal in the concrete rather than disembodied concepts and where we “act our way to right thinking” (Hirsch) rather than trying to think our way to right action. I just finished the afterword in McLaren’s book and he devotes several pages to this issue and expresses it better than anyone I have read so far. He sees that the church took an unfortunate turn well away from the Hebrew world view well before the marriage with the State through Constantine, and calls it a “divorce” from our Jewish roots (with a rise in anti-semitism), and a re-marriage with Greek Philosophy in neoplatonism.

As far as the Christology, ecclesiology issue, I can think of a number of concrete historical situations where I believe that the practice, structure, and assumptions of the church about the church did have a strong influence in Christology, but a very negative one, the most obvious being Christendom. I plan to try to write that up, starting from a slightly different angle that just a linear view of “Christology <-> ecclesiology” in order to see if I can express it in a way that is more in harmony with your main points.

Give me a week or so. I just got a bunch of independent study and TA work downloaded on me, and we have a lot to do to get ready for our trip to Brazil. I think Deb is getting a little miffed at the time I am spending in blogsville… I might have start getting up a lot earlier to get everything done and still participate heavily in the blogs.

You guys are awesome and this discussion is invaluable. Makes me think of a good scripture reference: PRO 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, So one man [person – in case you are reading this Sarah] sharpens another. I am tempted to invite you all down to Miami next winter to smoke cigars and to get to know one another better.

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, if it's Miami in winter, and there are cigars, and this kind of conversing except "live," I'd sure love to tbe there!
I found Joseph's clarifications about apostolic functioning vs. local church, and the ways in which the apostolic and local could better interrelate very helpful and really exciting. I think we all like the multi-model approach--let's try everything the Spirit seems to be leading us into and see where he grants fruit... and "fruit" has a lot of forms and 'definitions'--in the same way we're learning not to say/think, "It has to be just this way and no other", we can also see "fruit" more broadly/diversely than perhaps we have. I know that lots of the 'fuddy-duddies' (Boomers, way more 'settlers' than 'pioneers,' 40s and 50s)in my church would be excited to hear what Joseph, John, and you others are 'playing' with, and would even want to invest some prayer and money into it. Hey, if we can't quite manage acting our way into new thinking, we could at least help someone else do it!
As to the interrelationship of Christology, missiology and ecclesiology, I think the answer is obvious, and imagine you've figured it out by now as well.
[wink]

John the Musician said...

Oh, me! me!

God doesn't exsist in time, so in his eyes the three-ologies are not before or after, but they simply exsist and function in the appropriate way. I truly believe that if a congregation, or gathering is practising the two most important commandments, of Loving God, and loving eachother, then God will be sure to guide them in the appropriate path. Of course that requires that a group of serious, radical, wholehearted people who are truly disciples of Jesus actually exsist, but I'm sure it's possible. Just difficult.

josenmiami said...

ok...here is where the praxis starts: I am off to Miami Beach to meet with a gay friend who is searching and dealing with a lot of inner pain because his boyfriend left.

I recently felt that God showed me that he is calling me to gather gays around Jesus...don't have a clue what it means, but you can bet your booties I am going back to Jesus, the Apha male, to get some formative direction for this missiology...I probably won't know for years if it will lead to some kind of ecclesiology 8-)

Please keep me in your prayers tonight, and especially lift up my dear friend. I would love to have some truly good news to share with him that he has ears to hear.

John M. said...

Joseph,
Thanks for you cautions about a "one size fits all" approach. I tried to acknowledge that when I said that I don't expect everyone should or will have the same perspective that I carry.

I agree with you that it is not wise to try to transition old wineskins. Jesus made it clear that putting a patch on an old wineskin doesn't work. So I need to be reminded not to try!

I also agree that the ideas I put forth are primarily for new and pioneering expressions of church. That was my assumption when I was writing. The problem as I see it is that those who launch out from the traditional structures tend to assume that one size does fit all. And then they attempt to reproduce the only ecclesiology they have ever known. The Lord may very well lead many of them to reproduce the same structures that they have emerged from, but I think it is unwise to launch out to plant a new expression of the Body without asking, how would Jesus want to build it. How is He building it? Is there scaffolding that I don't need to reproduce or that actually hinders the growth and life of the Body? I'm only suggesting that these issues be intentionally put on the table when mission is considered. Another question that probably should be asked is, "Should we even try to "plan/build a church" or should we just evangelize, make disciples and encourage and assist them to come together as a family/community -- then let the "sturcture" emerge as the Lord leads them.

Regarding the diversity of the Body of Christ, I love it and have come to appreciate it more and more. When I watched Pope John Paul's funeral on TV, I was amazed at the repore I felt with my Catholic brothers and sisters. I felt like I was watching a huge slice of my spiritual family that for years I repudiated because of the prejudices and judgements that my background instilled in me. I also have come to deeply appreciate the Eastern Orthodox church. I love their theology and have at times been tempted to pursue that wing of the Body. I know that sounds schizophrenic based on my last post, but it's true. It's their ecclesiology and a few other doctrines that cause me to remain the "free church" guy I am, but I retain a deep respect and sense of debt to historic Christianity. Part of our problem today in the church is that our memory is only a few decades (or maybe centuries) old. We need to draw on the wisdom of the millenia.

I think I tend to have the least patience for my own wing of the family, evangelicalism. I guess one's own family, especially in its current expression, is the hardest to appreciate at times, although there obviously is much to value and to hold on to in our evangelical heritage.

OK This was going to be short. I know I've already missed that goal. So I'm quitting. Sean, I want to hear your comments...

Brian Emmet said...

Jose, I am with you on ministry to gays... and am probably even more puzzled about how to do it than you are. But I would love to get semi-regular reports about it--not to invade the privacy of this one friend, but just as you figure out how to try to go about it. Maybe it's something like being a missionary to a "tribe" that practices polygamy--we understand the practice is wrong, and perhaps deeply so (despite OT instances of it), but the starting point cannot be, "You have to put away all your wives but one before Jesus will have anything to do with you." Among other bad effects, it would be terribly unjust to the put-away wives who are now exposed to poverty. Anyway, keep us posted as your praxis develops. Jesus has got to have a better solution than the ones I've come up with!

John M. said...

Joseph and Brian,
I'm with you on the gay thing. It pains me to hear the prejudice and judgment (sometimes bordering on hateful) that many of my brothers and sisters project toward gays.

Somehow we've got to show them Jeus' love without condemning them for their lifestyle, even while we don't condone it. Jesus seemed to do a real good job with the Smaritan woman at the well.

Jeremiah said...

Ok guys,

Christology (The knowledge of Christ) has to be first. for example "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." and then again "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish..." How can we read things like that and not have our hearts burn to know Jesus? "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings" This is the center. The only reason we have a mission is because that is how we know Christ, through shared life experiences. We come to know Christ because we do what He did. If the mission isn't about knowing Jesus, the mission is god. Even Christ's coming to earth wasn't about the mission, it was about deepening HIS fellowship with the Father by obedience. At the beginning of the book the mission of GOD (creation) flowed out of His perfect communion with Himself (Let us...) God builds all things relationally (That is a pretty basic truth for the Covenant branch) and because He builds all things relationally everything flows out of that. We must never seek either the idea of GOD or the works of GOD we must seek HIS face (Ps. 27) and never settle for anything less than Knowing Christ! I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST!!! I want to know HIM in the fellowship of sharing in HIS sufferings AND in the power of HIS resurrection! In failure and in victory I will use every circumstance only as a way to know Jesus Christ. In the knowing, In the love, In the Mystery of Christ in us being the hope of glory, we will find him calling us to labor for "...my Father is always working..." and in the labor there will be those who labor with us for "...ask the Lord of the Harvest to send Harvesters..." and we will find that the structure of how we fit with them in a Covanental Community which is centered on the King of Kings will create such an outpouring of Love that Heaven really does come onto the Earth.

And BTW what I am writing is not theory, it is what I am living out. It is the slow way to build the Church, but I am convinced that it is the solid lasting way (i.e. a foundation dug into stone) which my lineage will carry on until they greet Jesus' return with heads held high and victory in their hands.

I guess I wrote too much. sorry I got carried away, that is what happens when you don't read the blog for a week.

josenmiami said...

Hey Jeremiah….I love your passion! (by-the-way, do you have a new email? Could you send me your email because the one I have is being returned).

Gentleman, sounds like we have a true blue controversy and have not yet arrived at a consensus…I had almost surrendered to the eloquence of Sean and John. This is good, controversy will keep our blog alive (remember in High School when some yelled “fight, fight!” everyone came running—I’m telling you, this is going to require cigars and brandy overlooking the ocean in Feb. to resolve).

Hi John, you said:

"Should we even try to "plan/build a church" or should we just evangelize, make disciples and encourage and assist them to come together as a family/community -- then let the "sturcture" emerge as the Lord leads them.”

I would emphatically say (at this point) that we should do the latter. We make huge assumptions when we set out to “plant” a church when Jesus never told us to do that. No where in the commands of Christ is a command to “go and plant churches.” Jesus rather said, “I will build MY church” and he also said “go and say the kingdom of God has come near you”, and “go and make disciples”.

I have almost come to the conclusion that church planting is not a biblical activity… kingdom announcing, kingdom demonstrating (Matt.10) and disciple-making are all biblical commissions. By-the-way, I am putting my own concepts to work in my outreach on the campus. I have no agenda to ‘start’ a church… but I am constantly announcing the nearness of the kingdom, demonstrating it through words of healing, and I am even starting to make some disciples. I am curious to see how Jesus will build his church out of this.

“I think I tend to have the least patience for my own wing of the family, evangelicalism.” … ditto, same here.

Brian and John, I just got home from Miami Beach. My friend and I, (I will call him Scott) had a very pleasant conversation. He has always insisted to me that he loves God and is a believer. I think he is genuine. He just broke up with his boyfriend and is dealing with some depression. We talked in general terms about some of the dynamics of relationships, and I confirmed his feeling that the relationship basically was not healthy. I told him a little about my “Purpose-Driven Life” email devotions and a couple of the conversation groups that I am leading and he expressed some interest in learning more. He is thinking about attending a large church where a good friend of mine is the pastor, and I strongly recommended it as a good ‘non-judgmental’ church where he will hear good teaching and have good worship. By-the-way, he has been supporting me as a missionary for several years. He told me tonight, that I was the first Christian leader that he had ever met who loved him and did not judge him. He is personally convinced that he has been gay since birth. I told him that I did not have answers…I just knew that I approved of him as a person and considered him my friend.

I now have at least 3 friends who are gay, two of whom live on Miami Beach. A while back, I had a visual flash of me leading a bible discussion with a group of gays, teaching them to love God by following Jesus and loving others. My friend Sam confirmed to me that the vision was from God. There is one command of Christ that addresses lust and adultery …otherwise, none of the commands of Christ get into sexual preference. It is a process…and it would take me at least a year to go through all the commands of Christ with a new group after they committed to do so….and then we could tackle Paul and the epistles. In this situation, where should I start? missiology or ecclesiology? I think I must start with Christology...what would Jesus do? I have a pretty good idea that he would become friends with this folks and start hanging out with them. So...there is my mission...I will figure out the "church" part of it later...

I would appreciate your ongoing prayers. Things are beginning sizzle where I have been sowing, particularly over on Miami Beach and in Downtown Miami. There are two girls on MB who are eagerly going through the Purpose-Driven Life and following along my emails… one of the them as been quite open about her promiscuity. I think she just crossed the border into the "great dance" this week.

As my wife would say, “My, my, these unruly Corinthians! What shall we do with them?”

John the Musician said...

Sounds exciting Joe! Good luck and happy hunting. While I was in high school I watched several of my friends slip slowly from neutral to homosexual. Only took 2 to 4 years for most of them (at least 2 or 3 friends). More than anything, I noticed that it wasn't simply that these individuals decided, "I'm going to be gay," but rather other/older homosexuals often recruited these insecure young men and women. I saw homosexuals evangalizing and discipling younger gays to their cause. I always felt so hopeless, watching all this happen before my very eyes, while I was hardly strong enough to secure myself. I could do nothing to reach out to these young men and women except to pronounced in a loud voice with a clap on the back, "You're the man/woman!"

I guess all that to say, I think the proccess that God calls us to is a natural one. We've already got the relational, and we've already got the desire to help guide others through the territory that we've walked. I say we should do what's natural as well as continually balancing the natural with the spirit inside us. By consitantly communicating with Jesus we can check our methods and adjust them as we go.

josenmiami said...

hi John,

thanks for sharing your observations from High School. I have been viewing this issue from a point of view of compasion toward the individuals I know...who are mostly misrable and unhappy and searching for some kind of fulfillment.

What you share about older people 'evangelizing' younger ones into a lifestyle, sounds more like an ideology and is more sinister...it bears some thought and prayer.

Jeremiah said...

Joseph,

I have had experience with walking a few folks out of that lifestyle. (and other addictions as well) a couple of things I've learned (mostly taught by others)

1) they will never get out as long as they have a "stash". this goes for any addictions. basically for that life style they pretty much have to cut the relationships completely or they get drug back in. I have seen both positive examples where they did cut the relationships and left that lifestyle and negative examples where they didn't and got sucked back in. It is a very long term fight is also what I've found.

2) They like to say they are born with it, but so what? It is proven that Alcoholism is genetic (They've isolated the gene) and that isn't acceptable behavior. For that matter orthodox Christianity teaches that ALL sin is genetic. So my response to that is whoopty doo, join the rest of us in dealing with genetic sin.

3) It seems to me that sexual sin in women stems from anger issues towards their dads. In men it seems they always have a problem with feeling disconnected from their dad in some way.

I am in no way an expert but I've ran across a handful in the last 10 years or so and that has been my experience. Maybe it will useful to you.

BTW Jeremiahcole@insightbb.com

sorry I kept forgetting

John the Musician said...

I think it does have to do with the mother figure as well, and pretty deeply. One of my friends from highschool had a very very passive dad. He eventually did become gay. However, I had another friend who had a father of the same type, very passive, and he is not gay to this day, and me and him have spent a lot of time communicating and moving towards God together. I think that a lot of it also depends on the mother in that respect. It's almost as if the father sets the child up for sin when he is disconnected, but when the mother becomes overbearing because she feels like she has to take control of the situation at home, because of the passivity of the father, that I believe is what really pushes young men over the edge and into homosexuality.

I think that God gave us the answer to this type of sin as well as all other sin when he said to go out and make disciples of all the nations. If we can effectively make disciples, and train them in the way of God, then those peoples lives that we touch will be much more likely to bear good fruit.

Of course that's not the only answer as far as reaching active homosexuals, but I believe we should try to disciple homosexuals in the same way that we would anyone else. We should also be sure not to think of homosexuality as any more severe a sin than any other, because in reality it's not.

josenmiami said...

good thoughts guys. Of course it all begins with relationships...we have to be "friends of sinners" like Jesus inorder to share good news.

Brian? are you going to keep us in suspense? Are you teasing us? You said that you had the answer to our theological dilema...so, lets have it! Don't hold out on us man...

Brian Emmet said...

No final answers just yet, but there is a new post, so could we get up, stretch our legs a bit, and regather around that table over there? I've reshuffled the deck and it's someone's turn to turn over a first card...